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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rachel Dolezal Complications and Solutions.

I view Rachel Dolezal through a slightly different lens. I'm definitely white, grew up suburban, with neighbors threatening a cross-burning when my parents wanted to sell to friends who were African-American. (The friends decided no.) I'm also someone who has spent a ton of time as the only white woman backstage, at the party, on the subway, on the bus, at the mall, the block club, the neighborhood grocery, or as the "white cousin" at the Juneteenth party. One of my adopted nephews was continually and nearly lethally harassed by the LAPD, in front of my adopted niece, and sometimes in front of an hysterical me, and I have also repeatedly observed storekeepers' bigotry towards my much more wealthy best friend who is black.

I'm also a blonde Jew--who could easily "pass" for Swedish--but with a family history of persecution, stories of people I know or know about beginning in the 1880's and continuing through and even beyond the Holocaust.

I think about Delezal, then, in different arcs. F'rinstance, she came from the rabbit hole of her parent's off-grid, Christian-cultish lifestyle, a severely isolated world where infants are "blanket trained" with corporal punishment if they put a finger off the 2' x 3' blanket, children of color are adopted to save them from Hell, and then, as they adjust, accused of having an attachment disorder, (symptoms being things like not looking parents in the eye, or accusing someone of sexually abusing them,) and punishments are meted out with flexible plumbing pipe, or by banishing the child to a correctional camp where they are forced to run around a tree fir a night and a day.

So, yes, I can see someone surviving that coming to identify on a profound level with, say, a Holocaust survivor, or a slave. I think she has hurt her soul and damaged valuable relationships built on trust, mostly because of a flawed vision--that she had to become something in order to be welcomed into it. Or because she wanted to belong so much she lost touch with the truth. Or maybe because she wanted to just belong, to sit in a group of Mocha Moms (the Moms Club movement for people of color) and hear the completely relaxed comments of a people among whom she wanted to belong. It's clear that she did just that--well, maybe not the Mocha Moms--and that those friends are now deeply hurt by her lies and her masquerade.

I think about her cultural appropriation. Is it on a par with the costumer who put Bo Derek in cornrows for the movie 10? Is the parallel closer to African women bleaching their skins or Asian women getting surgery to gain an epithelial fold for their eyes--wanting so badly to belong to a culture that one lies and deforms oneself to gain a safe place in it?

I also think about all the passion over removing the Confederate flag, rather than putting any energy at all into creating sane gun laws, finding a solution to online hate-mongering, and coming up with a more reasonable mental health policy. Like the passionate cries of rage over Rachel Dolezal, these responses reminds me of the Temperance movement. People blamed Demon Rum, but the real problem was the fact that white women and children were legal property of husbands and fathers. Anything these women and children owned, earned, saved, as well as their own bodies, belonged to their men, who were legally allowed to rape their wives, to beat them with a stick no bigger than their thumb, and to spend everything they could get on liquor. In those days, nobody could consider making white women and children people in their own right, so they focused on getting rid of the liquor.

And here we are, faced with complicated horror or complicated farce, and our reponse is to jump for simplicity--she's using white privelege, we should lose the flag. Sure she is, and sure we should, and Rum can be a Demon, but it's definitely not the whole story, or the whole issue. I hope to hear more about Ms. Dolazel and about her colleagues at the NAACP, as the summer continues. I like complicat

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